Leaderisticality

How to hire, train, and maintain an hourly workforce

Archive for the category “Developing Relationships”

Building Relationships… What Exactly Does That Mean?

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 9 of a series…

So let’s try to finish up our series on hiring for, and developing our team from average to great.  You’ll remember (I hope) that we’re talking about hourly team members, from no experience/entry-level to Store Team Leader level… you can find part 1 here.  At this level, which includes almost all retail/restaurant jobs (almost anyone paid hourly) we are hiring for qualities rather than skills, as we can teach anyone most any skill needed, however we cannot teach anyone the qualities we need…  And as an added bonus, if we hire exclusively for Leadership qualities, we need never look elsewhere for our future Leaders.

We also talked about how to hire for customer service, as well as the importance of indoctrinating our new hires.  For the last few posts we’ve discussed moving those few people who don’t belong on our team off of our team; moving our current team members from average to great by introducing new expectations (while owning our part in allowing the old behaviors); and the beginning steps to changing the culture of our team.

So let’s pick up by talking about developing relationships… what exactly does that mean?  A long time ago, when I was new to being responsible for the behavior of other people, I kind of thought that meant figuring out how to manipulate them into doing what needed to be done.  I was not very self-aware, and looking back; I was a pretty selfish young man.  So… what I wanted, and what I was responsible for making happen, was much more important than what the people working for me wanted or needed.

Needless to say, I found my work to be a constant struggle, moving between attempting to befriend my workers, attempting to coerce them through fear or intimidation, and following up after them, often doing the work that still needed to be done myself.  It was exhausting!

Through SO MANY mistakes, some huge and painful life lessons, reading some great books, and with some great advice and mentoring by a few good Leaders I was lucky enough to work with/for, I was able to start to understand that it’s not all about me and what I want or need.  I remember my mother, as well as the nuns in Catholic school, telling me that doing for others is it’s own reward; and that working for the good of the group will almost guarantee that you will get what you want (perhaps by changing what we want!?).  It was many years before I understood these lessons, and could start putting them into practice.

So where am I going with all of this?

Building relationships is not about getting what you want.  In order to have our team members want to do what needs to be done, they have to trust us, believe in, and care about the goals of the team, and know that helping them achieve their goals is genuinely important to us.

So… building a relationship with another person starts with getting to know that person.  It’s about them… not you!  I have come to believe that most people can tell in pretty short order when the person speaking to them is genuinely interested in them, or if they are trying to manipulate them.  The only reason to proceed from here is because you are genuinely interested in learning about the other, and in helping them achieve their goals.  If you move forward with any other intentions, I believe it won’t be long before you are found out, and you will have blown your chances of developing a trusting relationship.

Let’s move forward believing that we are all on the same page… that we are not saints, so we have our own goals, wants, and needs (sometimes we act selfishly, and sometimes we are self-absorbed).  And… more often than not, we are genuinely interested in helping other people achieve their goals, and helping other people makes us feel good.  We good?

Building relationships takes time.  We have to make a real commitment to this effort, as it will take many months (at least) depending on the size of your team, and how you have acted in the past, to get to know your team members, and start to build trust between you.  You will have to meet with each team member (or at least your department team Leaders) a couple of times/month at first in order to get to know them; show them you are really committed to them and this process; and to be able to take some action towards helping them achieve their goals.

If you try to rush this process, you will not achieve the results you want.  Your team members will see that you simply want to get to some end where they do your bidding, and you will have wasted all of your time.  Please either commit to this fully, or do not start the process until you are ready to fully commit.

Do not fool yourself into believing that you already have the relationships you need.  If you did, you would not need to change the culture of your team.  You would just need to alter your expectations, and perhaps get your team together to come up with some aggressive new goals.  And if you are reading this, that is not where you are.  If you actually have great relationships with your team members, you probably don’t need my help, and you most likely already have a great team.  So let’s get realistic, and commit to doing this right.

Wow!  1000 words, and my posts are already much longer than people tell me they should be.  So… we’ll stop here, and perhaps part 10 will be the last of the series.  Next time we’ll talk about purposefully developing a culture where feedback is expected, and where it is “heard” as an attempt to help us constantly and incrementally improve.

Remember that this Blog Leaderisticality.wordpress.com will be going away, so if you want to continue reading (and I suggest you do!) you’ll want to go to http://www.leaderisticality.com and sign up to follow there.  Thank you!

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Moving Towards Great… Changing behaviors that were acceptable in the past

bonsai forrestWhat Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 7 of a series…

Next time we will talk about how expectations for behavior and performance will be changing, and how to make this process as painless and blameless as possible.

(Cue into music)  So we’re back with part 7 of what seems to be a growing series on how to hire for, and develop a great team.  We’ve talked about hiring for qualities because they can’t be trained; about how and why we welcome (indoctrinate) our new hire; and how to start removing roadblocks that are keeping our current team members from being great.

Next up, we have to change our team member’s expectations for service, performance, and behavior. 

If we have been leading this team for some time, we have allowed the team, as well as the culture, to become whatever it has become.  We have allowed the current standards to develop, and our actions (or lack thereof) have allowed the current culture to be the norm.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter if we are new to the team, or if we have been the team Leader, our goal is the same… we need to change the standards, the expectations, and the culture of our team.

I have found, through trial and more error than I’d like to admit, that the best way to go about this is accepting responsibility for the current state of affairs.  Even if you are new to the team, accepting responsibility for allowing the current reality will go a long way in beginning to develop trust with your team members.

Blaming the past Leadership, even if you don’t feel as if you are bad mouthing them, will certainly turn off a number of your team members.  It seems that the most simple and productive way through this is to tell ourselves that they did the best they could with the tools they had (because that is exactly what they did), and our job is to move forward from where we are now.

So, to continue changing the expectations for our team, we will need to address the behaviors or standards that were acceptable in the past, and state clearly what will be the standard moving forward.  These conversations will happen with individual team Leaders, team members, department teams, and with our entire team gathered together for a whole team meeting.

I realize that I write very differently than most, in that I try to spell out exactly what to do in order to achieve the results I describe.  This makes for longer posts, as well as fewer bullet points, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Perhaps a few examples are in order…

We’ll start by talking about why we feel the need to make these changes, with honesty and transparency.  This is the only way to move forward and have any chance of achieving great.

You will own all responsibility for allowing the current conditions and standards of behavior… If you are not willing to do this you will not achieve great!

The more open and honest you are with your team members the better the odds they will trust your intentions and want to move forward with you.

So… I’ll list some examples of behaviors with the one successful way I have found to state how things will be changing.  This is not necessarily the only way to go about this, just the way I’ve found that works.

In the past, it’s been OK to complete and turn in your period end inventory without being audited by store Leadership.  Moving forward, you are responsible for getting a member of store Leadership to audit your inventory before handing it in.  This is not a punishment, nor is it because I do not trust you… it is simply a smart way of double-checking important work.  We all make mistakes, and using another pair of eyes is the best way to run our business.

In the past, I have allowed people’s attention to be on cell phones and laptops during meetings, instead of what was happening at the meeting.  Moving forward, cell phones will be put away, and laptops will be closed during meetings so we can all be present and participate in the running of our business.

In the past, team members have been allowed to have phones in their hands while on the clock, and on the sales floor.  Moving forward, once clocked in (and not on break or lunch) we will focus on our work, and our customers.  Cell phones are distractions, and so should not be in our hands or used at all during work hours.  If a team member has a personal situation that they feel necessitates cell phone use or availability, they need to talk to their team Leader about it before beginning work.

In the past, it has been acceptable to turn in team member reviews past the due date.  Moving forward, reviews will be completed and filed before the due date.  If there is a reason you do not feel this is possible, you must speak to your team Leader about it 2 weeks before the due date.  Our team members deserve their reviews on time.

These are just a few simple examples, and in each, we are accepting that the behavior had been accepted in the past, so there is no consequence for that past behavior.  However, in the future, we spell out the new expectation, and explain why the expectation is changing.  Doing this right will answer most questions, and get everyone on board.

Only a few parts left… We started changing the culture of our team by hiring only great team members, and continued by addressing behaviors that need to change.  In the next few posts we’ll talk about how to create a culture where feedback flows pretty freely, and where our team members ask forgiveness rather than for permission when trying something new.

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Changing expectations

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 6 of a series…

Welcome to part 6 of this series on hiring and developing a great team, specifically with an hourly workforce.  We’ve talked about hiring for qualities, correctly welcoming (indoctrinating) your new hires, and now we are moving to the next steps necessary to keep your great new hires great, as well as changing expectations for your current team members.  In part 5 we talked about helping people who do not belong on your team find their happiness elsewhere, and deciding if they really have to go, or are we acting out of fear.

Today we will focus on:

2. Changing expectations for our existing team members.

We will likely have a large number of our team members happy to be getting great new people on the team (finally!), and happy to see the worst go (what have you been waiting for?).  The rest will be swept along by the strongest force (whether it be good or evil), and while they are not the yet the great team members we’d like to have on the team, I’ve found that the ‘window’ for great team members is wider that most people think.  Many more people would be great additions to the team if they are properly trained, trusted, allowed to take chances, and if they really believe that we, their team Leaders, have their best interest at heart.

Our current team members are not yet acting like Great team members for several reasons.  As Leaders, I believe our first job is to assume that our team members are fully capable of greatness, and our job is to remove the roadblocks that are holding them back.

Some of them have had the creativity and willingness to speak up beaten out of them by past bosses.  They are now doing average work because in the past it has not been in their best interest to speak up, make suggestions, maintain high work standards, or exceed expectations.

For these people the process will include brainstorming sessions, allowing them to move forward with their ideas with little or no input from you, and rewarding and celebrating each and every time one of them speaks up, offers an idea, or provides even the smallest bit of constructive criticism.

You should expect the process of encouraging people to speak up to take some time… months at least, if not longer.  At first they will not trust you to listen to, or care about what they have to say.  The need for patience and understanding is paramount, and your ability to ride out this process will be tested.  If you are able to stick with it, the payoff will be more than worth it.

Some of them have always had each and every step of their jobs spelled out for them, and have not had the freedom to innovate, or make any decisions for themselves.  These people have been taught to follow orders, rules, and job descriptions to the letter, and the thought of changing this learned behavior could be very scary.

These people do not expect to be trusted (in fact they will likely expect just the opposite), so you must be not just willing, but eager to extend trust to everyone on your team.  People don’t need to ‘earn’ your trust… people deserve trust simply because they are people.  And as Leaders it is our job to extend trust.

Here again, we get more of what we reward and celebrate.  So… if we want our team members to take chances, try new methods, and innovate, we should celebrate and reward each and every instance.

I have found that it helps to suggest ways in which people might step out of their rigid confines (whether they are self defined, or have been defined for them by others).  We are often able to see the right answers and best course of action for others, and yet unable to see any path at all for ourselves.

Literally making suggestions about how to approach their work differently may not work, since too many people will hear our suggestions as yet more direction.  So… I’ve had success simply relating my experiences…  “When I was… I tried this…” or “I had this great team Leader who suggested that I try… I failed miserably, but because of that failure I thought of trying… which worked out great” or “I’ve seen this… or this… work in the past, and I bet you can come up with an even better way to…”

This is where celebrating every attempt will help you, because many of your team members will be hesitant to try something new for fear of failure… or more specifically, the consequences of failure.  So… having their team Leader celebrate and reward every attempt at innovation will go a long way toward helping your people break out of their old habits.

Some people have ideas or pictures of themselves that are not true, or not supported by fact.  You know the stories we tell ourselves… like: I’m not good at math… I could do everything about the next job but the financials.  For whatever reason, many of us tell ourselves, convince ourselves that we are not capable, or not able to do certain jobs or tasks … we can help people break out of these limiting molds and thought patterns.

As we develop relationships with our team members, we will begin to understand what thought patterns are getting in the way, and over time we can work on helping our team members see that these beliefs are not only false, but often the opposite is true!  They will only listen to us however, once we show them that we have their best interest at heart.

Some people have attitudes that stand in their way.  We can be too idealistic, feel that everything we do must be perfect, or that we cannot compromise at all without compromising who we are.  Attitudes like this can easily keep us from building on our strengths, getting enough tasks accomplished, or working well as part of a team.

We can help these people by showing them how this belief or behavior is getting in the way of achieving their goals.  Our first job, as usual, is to develop strong, trusting relationships.  Then, when they realize that our goals for them are the same as their goals for themselves, they will actually hear us when we talk to them about how these attitudes (which then affect their behaviors) are keeping them from achieving their goals.

To sum up… to move our current team members from average to great, our first steps are to build strong, trusting relationships; assume there are obstacles keeping them from being great; removing the obstacles and roadblocks we can remove; helping our team members develop new habits and overcome old patterns; and rewarding and celebrating every attempt towards the behaviors we need to see more of.

Next time we will discuss how our expectations for performance and behavior need to change in order to achieve great, as well as how to relate these changes to our team.  As the past behavior of the team is exactly what we allowed it to be, we need to fully own our responsibility in order for the team to accept the needed changes.

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Helping People Find Happiness Elsewhere

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 5 of a series…

Welcome back!  Here we are, working on building a great team of hourly team members, from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leader.  We’ve talked about hiring the best people by hiring for qualities rather than skills, because we can teach pretty much anyone almost any skill, however we cannot teach qualities.

Last time we talked about the need to indoctrinate (or whatever you choose to call it) your new hire just as soon as you make the decision to hire them.  The importance of this cannot be overstated… you simply cannot leave this to anyone else.  Only you, the team Leader, can imbue your new hire with the team’s values and goals, the work ethic you expect, and make sure they know that you not only value and appreciate what they bring to the team, but also your commitment to helping them achieve their goals.

I have found that stating these things without the passion, belief, and energy that we would imagine someone who is ‘indoctrinating’ another person would use, will end with us failing to achieve the desired results.  The process, and how the message is delivered are as important as the actual message.  At least this is what I’ve found in my experience.

It is most important that you begin developing that strong, trusting relationship the day you decide to add them to the team.

Now that we are hiring the best people, we need to keep these great new hires from joining the ranks and adopting the current culture, and change the culture and of the team.  Without changing the culture, as well as the expectations of our current team members, those great new people will either become mediocre, or leave.  We cannot allow that to happen!

To keep that from happening, we need to be doing several things at once…

  1. 1.    Get the people who do not belong on a great team off the team as quickly as possible.  Even if that means we run short handed for a while, the risk of allowing them to poison our new hires far out weighs the short term effects of being short handed.  All of our time and effort spent finding the best people and getting them excited about working on this great team will be for naught if we do not get those who are not interested in being part of a great team off of our team.

If we are not willing to follow through on this critical step, we will never be able to develop that great team.  People who do not belong on a team are like poison, and no amount of coaching, or relationship building can mitigate the damage they will do.  The percentage of people who cannot be won over, and will need to be removed from the team is small.  If you are feeling that a large number, 10%, 15% or more of the current team members need to leave the team, perhaps we should take a hard look at our reasons for wanting them off the team.

When turning a team around, it is easy to feel that everyone we did not hire, everyone we don’t immediately see as a great addition to the team, or everyone who might be loyal to the previous leader needs to go.  In fact, what most likely needs to happen is we need to spend the time to develop relationships with the majority of these team members.

I have found that the range of people who can be great team members is much wider that many people think.   People who are not currently great, and who can become great team members have usually been mistrusted, and mistreated by their past team Leaders.  If we make sure they are trained, extend trust, and develop strong relationships with them, we will find that many of our current team members can move with us from average or mediocre to great.  It’s up to us as Leaders to do everything we can to engage with, and get the best out of each and everyone of our people.

For those very few who are always negative; do not wish to do the work it takes to be part of a great team; or will not be honest and genuine enough to allow a relationship to be built, we must be decisive and move them off the team as quickly as we can.

I didn’t mean to spend so much time on this one sub-topic, and I feel that its importance can’t be overstated.  Feeling that more than a few people need to leave the team is probably a clue that we are allowing ourselves to be driven by our fears, which will make it impossible to achieve great.  And at the same time, failing to take action with the few who do need to go will also keep us from achieving great.  Working with our coach or mentor can help us determine where the truth/balance lies, and keep us from getting derailed.

Next time we’ll talk about changing the expectations of our current team members…

Oh… one more thing.  Somehow, through my inexperience and experimenting with blogs, I ended up with 2 blogs.  So… soon I will be dropping this one and keeping http://www.leaderisticality.com  If you are interested in continuing to follow my posts, please head on over to http://www.leaderisticality.com and sign up to follow that one.  Thank you so much for your support!

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Indoctrination

Navy seals What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 4 of a series… So here we are in part 4 of this synopsis of my 70 or so post series, walking through hiring the best hourly team members, indoctrinating them onto our team, choosing the right apprentices, and changing the culture of our team from the one that allowed us to be average to one that will not allow average people to remain on the team.  The original posts can be found here starting with hiring… We’ve talked about the importance of hiring for qualities rather than skills (remember, we are hiring hourly team members, from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leaders) since we can train almost anyone pretty much any skills that might be needed, however we cannot teach qualities…   Qualities are the things that make our best people “clone worthy”. We’ve also talked about using the “ketchup question” when hiring for customer service, and the need to determine the default customer service level of your applicant. If you haven’t already, you can read part 1part 2, and part 3. So… we’ve interviewed our applicant by making them comfortable, and getting to know them through an in depth conversation, where we asked questions to find the behaviors that describe the Leadership qualities we are hiring for. And, we’ve decided to hire the person siting in front of us. Now what?  Well… In order to build a truly great team, we cannot allow our great new hire to simply adapt to the team as it stands.  We will simply end up with yet another mediocre team member. First step: Before I leave the room I will spend another 45 to 60 minutes with my new hire.  Yup… another hour to make sure that I get them off on the right foot invested now will pay off in more ways than you will believe. Remember, great does not happen by accident.  We are not satisfied with the standards of behavior, or the culture of our current team (if you are, good for you!  Keep up the great work!), and it is going to take hard work and tough decisions in order to affect the change that needs to happen.  You can do this, and you need to start today… right here and right now. You will invest the time and energy to get this new hire fired up.  You need them to come onto your team with a full understanding of the new standards you will be holding the team to.  You need to indoctrinate them with your excitement about what the team is going to be like, how excited you are to have them on your team, the important role they will play in achieving the goals of the team, and how interested you are in helping them achieve their goals (you just got done talking to them for an hour… you better be able to talk in depth about their goals!). Some people will state that they don’t like the word indoctrinate… and that’s OK.  You don’t have to use that word if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  And… Think of the best, strongest, and highest performing teams you can.  Perhaps the Navy Seals come to mind?  I grew up in the town that borders West Point… that comes to my mind (and where I hope our 17 year old will go)…  Now, do those teams welcome and train their newest team members?  Is there coffee, nice music playing in the background while we talk about how we like our team members to treat each other with the same respect you would like to be shown?   Not so much… What kind of process is it? I’ll give you a hint… it’s indoctrination.  Before anyone is brought onto the team they are told that it will be a difficult job, that it will be hard work, that you’re your teammates will be committed to excellence, and that you will be expected to uphold the highest standards of behavior and performance. I don’t believe that there is any way to maintain that level of performance without some form of indoctrination.  You don’t have to agree, and has what you’ve been doing gotten you a great team?  Is there a reason you can’t have a team that functions at an incredibly high level?  This process of hiring for qualities and indoctrinating every one of my new hires worked wonderfully for me, and that’s why I’m suggesting you take a chance and go for great! Whatever you choose to call it, if you want to achieve and maintain a very high level of performance, you will have to instill your new hire with the values and beliefs of your team.  Make sure they understand how much you value having them on the team, and that you are looking forward to them using their experience and knowledge to help the team improve everything it does. This is not something that you can delegate, nor can it be left to someone who does not even work on your team.  You, and only you (because you are the team Leader) can instill your new hires with your excitement about the future of the team, your passion for the success of the team, the rewards that come from achieving the goals of the team, and what the future can/will hold for your new hire.  If you feel you have found a great addition to the team, make sure they really understand how excited you are about having them on the team, and how they will be a key player in helping the team achieve it’s goals. If you do this right, your new hire will come in for his or her first day of work with more motivation that anyone currently on your team.  And as long as you continue to stay involved in their work and development, you can help them maintain that level of engagement. I believe that team member engagement is all about our relationship with the person to whom we report.  So you are starting to build that strong, trusting relationship the day you decide to hire them! Since we are transparent, we make sure our new hire understands that we are a team in transition. That means they might work with team members who are not upholding the expectations we just discussed, or acting in a manor consistent with the culture we described, and that does not mean it is OK for our new hire to do anything other than meet or exceed those expectations. We will explain that we are working on changing/improving the culture of the team, that we have some team members who may not be a good fit on this team, and that we are working hard to change their behavior of get then off the team. It is imperative that we are honest and transparent from our very first encounter with each and every great new hire.  We may not have always been as honest and transparent as we should have been in the past, and the only way to develop a truly great team is by making a commitment to honestly and transparency moving forward. I wrote a post about how and why I indoctrinate (you can read it here) and your indoctrination process should be personal, and fit your workplace.  I honed this process hiring and developing great teams for Whole Foods Market… a fast paced retail environment where standards are high and so are customer expectations.  You should indoctrinate your new hires with your ideals, your team’s values, and your hopes for their future.  Tell them everything you would want to hear if you had made it onto a team that had very high standards, and happy to have you join them. That’s probably long enough for today (too long by many standards), and I feel that too often posts and articles are too short to effectively help us really understand how to achieve the results talked about in the post.  So… I write until I feel I’ve said enough to actually help you.  I know this will mean some people won’t read them, and that’s OK. In part 5 we’ll talk about the next steps in building a great team, like the next steps in our new hire’s work life, moving those who are holding the team back off the team, and how to change the culture of our team.

Leadership And Holding The Door Open

holding door open

Do you hold the door open for others? If you do, why do you do it?

Do you want to think that you hold doors open for anyone who happens to be behind you because you are a kind hearted and giving person, and then feel a little insulted when you don’t get a ‘thank you’?

Do you, like me for much of my life, hold the door open for others and then say a sarcastic ‘you’re welcome’ (at least in our heads) when they don’t say thank you?

Or do you feel insulted (again, like me) when they slip through the door without touching it, forcing you to either let it close on them or continue to hold it open until they are through (which means, unless you are a complete ass, you simply have to hold it open until they are through)?

Why did you really hold the door open in the first place?

Did you hold it open in order to get a ‘thank you’?

If you felt anything other than happy that you were able to do something nice for another human being, even if they didn’t even acknowledge you at all, then you held the door open for the wrong reasons.

I want to suggest that we could view Leadership in the same way.

I believe that our reasons for taking action will affect the outcome of that action, so the motivation for our behavior towards those who work for us is the key to getting positive outcomes.  I talked about that here

Ask yourself the following questions. You don’t have to share your answers with anyone else, so you can be completely honest with yourself.

What is your motivation for wanting to be a ‘Leader’?

Why did you apply for, or accept this role?

What is your motivation for developing relationships with others?

Do you have an agenda that you keep from your team?

Are you completely transparent with your team, sharing your true goals and motivations?

Are you truly honest with your team members when giving them feedback? Do you tell them what they need to hear, rather than those convenient remarks that don’t really give them anything to work with?

And this is a tough one… Think of someone you really respected and who has passed on (perhaps a parent, teacher, or mentor)… what if they were actually looking down on you, watching your every move, knowing your thoughts… would they be proud of you?

As Leaders, we ‘judge’ the work performance of our team members, as well as their motivations, and we make decisions that affect the future of other people every day.

How often do we take an honest look at our own actions, and our motivations, to make the needed course corrections to put us back on track and aligned with our true values?

We could all benefit from having partner, a mentor, or a coach to help us keep our actions aligned with our true selves. Failing that, we need to find the courage to take an honest look at our own actions, and see if we are remaining true to what we each believe is the ‘right’ way to live our lives.

Being human we will all continue to make mistakes. And through an honest assessment of our actions, taken on a regular basis, we can keep ourselves on track to be the Leaders we aspire to be.

Leadership Or Manipulation?

Big doors

If We Are Developing Relationships For The Express Purpose Of Influencing Others, Is That Leadership Or Manipulation?

I started to write a post on developing relationships, and the connection between my thoughts on what Leadership is and is not, and how and why we develop relationships burst into my mind.

I have come to believe that we, people, can only consistently act like great Leaders if we have developed “Leadership qualities”. That is to say Leadership is not a list of behaviors or actions… it is rather how we see ourselves and the world, and this understanding, this way of being, determines the actions and behaviors by which we define Leadership.

So… we can learn the ‘skills’ needed to develop relationships. We can learn how to talk to our team members, get to know them, and do what we can to help them achieve their goals. We can try to share something of ourselves in order to build a level of trust or openness between us, and through this we will probably achieve some level of influence over these people.

And unless we are doing it because we actually care about those people; because we sincerely want to know them and help them; and we care less about the outcome than we do about the relationship, then I would call that manipulation.

I have witnessed an amazing amount of this kind of behavior. I have been manipulating end when I was younger and didn’t know any better, and on the receiving end working for people who were acting out of fear rather than caring.

In my experience this behavior can achieve some results, and only for a limited amount of time.

If we don’t truly care about the people around us we will not be able to carry on investing in them when things go sideways and the pressure is on.

If we care more about the outcome than we do about the people we will eventually have to toss aside those we don’t believe are moving us towards our own goals quickly enough.

If we don’t believe that the world is a safe place, and we are acting out of fear, we will not be able to extend trust for very long, and our need to be in control will take over.

Building relationships can give us influence, and only if we are building those relationships for the right reasons. If you are not getting the results you want; find your team members do not really trust you; or you just don’t really get the whole ‘relationship’ thing… you might think about your motivation for trying to build those relationships in the first place.

Leadership Training and You… The Sobering Truth

Train on tracks

OK… maybe that title is a bit dramatic.  And…

Leadership development programs don’t work as expected.  They will have some small impact on most participants, and no impact on a few.  However they will only have the desired impact on one or two participants.  Why?

Because Leadership is not a skill…

Many of the actions that Leaders take could be seen as skills.  We can teach people how to go through the motions of almost any skill.  We can teach people what actions people who have certain Leadership qualities take… what actions describe that quality.  However, since Leadership is not simply a compilation of skills, or simply a list of actions, we cannot teach Leadership.

Leadership is not a science…

Leadership is not facts, figures, or formulas.  We can tell people how a Leader might act when faced with a particular situation.  However, since Leadership involves other people who are all unique, there is no one right way to deal with any situation.  Remembering what to do, or how to act does not make great Leaders.

We have to want to take the actions that describe Leadership…

Simply knowing what actions to take does not mean we will take those actions.  Almost all of us know how to pray, and yet how many of us pray on a regular basis?  It takes a high level of faith, or belief to keep us praying daily throughout our lives.

It’s the same with Leadership…

We can teach people what generous people do, and that does not make people generous.  Only those who have a strong belief that giving is fuel for contentment; who feel good when they give things away; who feel good when helping others; and who see the world as abundant, with plenty to go around will actually be generous.

We can teach people what people who listen to understand do, and that does not make them good listeners.  Only people who believe that listening to others is important; who care about others enough to be interested not only in what they say, but how they feel; who believe that the thoughts and feelings of other’s are important; and who really care about helping others will actually listen to hear both what others are saying, and how they feel about what they are saying.

We can teach people why good communication skills are important, as well as how good communicators act, however this will not create good communicators.  Only those who believe in building strong relationships; who understand why ‘no one took them the wrong way’; who believe that they are responsible for how they come across; who are not constantly judging others; and who genuinely care about others will communicate in a way that will allow others to fully understand.

These are just three simple examples of why Leadership cannot be taught… because

Leadership is really a way of seeing ourselves, the world, and how we fit into that world.

This view only changes for each of us through mistakes, personal growth, maturity, and emotional development.  We cannot force these types of changes on others, no matter how much any of us wants it to happen.  Leadership is only developed as we learn life lessons about ourselves.  We can only foster a culture, an atmosphere, where people feel safe, trusted, and valued among other things.   This way those people can make mistakes, confide in us, trust us, and believe that we are here to help them develop these qualities, and support them through this process.

We only learn life lessons when we are ready to learn them…

We will only learn about qualities when we are ready to learn…  that is, when we have reached the appropriate level of maturity, and emotional development.  Any adult who ever attempted to teach a child about self-awareness, self-responsibility, or empathy knows that this is true.  Until we reach a certain point in our development, have made enough mistakes, and are then open to hearing about them, lessons about qualities simply make no sense to us.  The people we are trying to teach are not stupid, or incapable of learning… they are just not yet ready to learn what we are attempting to teach, and cannot understand it.

Your time, money, and energy are much better spent truly supporting Leadership and Leadership development in your workplace.

  • If you really want to support Leadership and develop Leaders:
  • Be the best example of great Leadership for everyone around you.
  • Encourage and support mistakes… if you are not making mistakes you are not trying hard enough
  • Allow your Leaders the time it takes to build strong, trusting relationships with their team members.
  • Encourage and support disagreement, and opposing opinions… we only learn from people who disagree with us.
  • Create a Leadership library, start a Leadership book club, and get involved in the discussion.
  • Foster transparency… there should be no secrets… everyone should know and understand everything.
  • Hire only the best, never settling…
  • Hire only for Leadership qualities first and foremost.
  • Include insurance that covers mental health.
  • Work honestly with poor performers… can they be great in another role? If not, move them off the team.
  • Align your rewards systems with Leadership and the development of others. This is the only real way you will see this continue.

People can be taught to do something once, maybe twice… to have the behavior continue after that, that they must believe in it.  They must want to do it because it’s the right thing to do… the only way to be.  This cannot be taught.

 

I have, for your reading pleasure, links below for articles I’ve written about the subjects above.  Thank you for your time and attention!

 

My thoughts on what Leadership is and is not.

My 16 part series on hiring for qualities rather than skills starts here.

My recent article on job descriptions and mediocrity.

Transparency and trust

And this article about Leadership training from Forbes by Rajeev Peshawaria that I thought was interesting

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